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Students’ Union Set Up Food Bank for Struggling Students

UCC Student’s Union recently announced that they have set up a food bank for students who are struggling financially in college. The aim of the project is to offer a concrete solution to students who are faced with increased rents and government grants that have not been increased since 2012.

The cost of living has increased, with rent in Cork rising 7.1% in the last year. In the past 5 years UCC student intake has risen 9.7% however housing still remains at a low. Landlords are seen to be taking advantage of the crisis and new student accommodations on offer to students are at an alarming price. The new Lee Point development on the former Beamish & Crawford Brewery site, sees student paying for €9,006 for the 38-week term. Along with college fees, travels costs and food, it is no wonder that the UCC Student’s Union felt the need for the Food Bank project.

Students at UCC will have the option to contact their Union and avail of the service to see them through this hard time. Welfare officer, Naoise Crowley hopes that by helping the students this way, it will have a knock-on effect on their mental health and over-all accessibility of 3rd level education.

“It is largely underestimated as there is a considerable stigma surrounding financial hardship which prevents people from speaking about it, and in some cases, seeking help’’, says Naoise.

36% of students in Ireland are said to be suffering from ‘severe finical problems’ and the government issued grant SUSI is not available to everyone. Of the 98,000 applicants for 2019/2020 academic year, only 81,800 students were awarded. As of 2018, there is over 231,800 students in the higher educational system, 8% over the previous five years.

With the rising attendance and costs, UCC are calling on more action to be taken from the government to help. This is the generation of the future; they need to invest. With the general election planned for the next year, students are advised to put it to their local TDs to demand change from government level. Budget allocations to the grant need to be revised to help students in need.

“In essence, support options have not moved in line with this increased cost of attending university. This is creating a very difficult environment for students and is effectively freezing people out of education.”

Speaking to the University Express about the news was Welfare Officer, Naoise Crowley, who said, Food poverty is a prevalent issue in Irish society at present, with certain estimates of over 700,000 experiencing food poverty to some extent. Student poverty and financial hardship is a massively underestimated issue in Irish universities, with approximately 36% of students in Ireland experiencing ‘severe financial problems’.”

In a further statement from the UCC SU it read, “the cost of living is increasing rapidly at present, with rents in Cork increasing by 7.1% last year. However, grant amounts and thresholds have not changed since the austerity budgets of the coalition government following the recession. In essence, support options have not moved in line with this increased cost of attending university. This is creating a very difficult environment for students and is effectively freezing people out of education. It appears that many of these ‘temporary cuts’ are here to stay in the short-medium term, at least. Students’ Unions across the island have responded to this situation by putting pressure on politicians and policymakers to make education more accessible, and we are continuing with such efforts. At the same time, we want to do our best to tackle this crisis by taking innovative and practical steps to support our students struggling with the cost of attending college. UCC SU Food Bank allows us to respond directly and in a tangible manner to one of the most common areas students come to us for assistance. Welfare issues are very often interconnected and there is a long-established link between financial hardship and mental health difficulties. By ensuring the basic needs of students are met we hope this will have a positive knock-on effect on the mental health of students we support through this initiative.”